The question had to be asked to Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins — the only Canadian inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame — during the Canadian Baseball Breakfast at the London Convention Centre on Friday (June 20) — when and who will be the next Canuck immortalized in Cooperstown?
It’s been 23 years since Jenkins received the HOF nod and there’s a baseball-sized roster of Canadians who have been shortchanged by the sport’s highest honour.
Was there no player before Jenkins who could be picked?
Of the 16 eligible Hall of Famers who have hit for the MLB’s triple crown, Ontario’s Tip O’Neill is one of two to not be inducted.
Fort William, Ont. native Jeff Heath is one of five retired players part of the 20-20-20 club (at least 20 doubles, triples and home runs in a single season). The three-time all-star was never even considered for Cooperstown.
Was there no one after Jenkins who could be put in the HOF?
The latest Great White North snub is Larry Walker. The seven-time Gold Glove winner from B.C. slipped down and received 10.2 percent of the HOF votes in his fourth year on the ballot. He earned 21.6 percent of the votes in 2013. Players need 75 percent to get in.
It looks like Walker’s best chance to get a bronze plaque will be by the Veteran’s Committee, a group that selects players ineligible to be picked by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The biggest knock on Walker has always been his numbers being inflated because of batting nine seasons in the light mile-high air of Colorado’s Coors Field.
Walker had a .381 batting average at Coors Field and hit .282 everywhere else. While he was with the Montreal Expos he had an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging average) of .890 that went up more than 300 points with the Rockies.
“I don’t care if (the air) is light or not, if you’re going to put that uniform on you got to play and put numbers up and I think he did that,” Jenkins said. “Unfortunately he fell into a bracket where he started losing numbers and then people started bypassing.”
We might be waiting awhile for a Canadian to come around Cooperstown for enshrinement.
Joey Votto could be Canada’s best hope, Jenkins said. The Etobicoke-born National League MVP is currently in his eighth season with the Cincinnati Reds.
Even with four all-star nods, a Gold Glove, an NL Hank Aaron Award and most likely more accolades to come, Votto is hardly a shoo-in for the HOF.
“Votto could be next, if Joey can stay healthy,” Jenkins said.
Walker, Heath and O’Neill have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Votto will for sure be in one day as well.
Player, coach and scout Jim Ridley, from Burlington, and former MLB manager Murry Cook, from Sackville, NB are the Canadians headed to St. Marys from the 2014 class when they get inducted Saturday (June 21).
Eight players have been picked for the Canadian HOF in the last two years and only three have been from this country. Nowadays, it seems hard enough for Canadians to even get into their home Hall of Fame, let alone the one south of the border.